Westminster Justice and Peace among faith groups endorsing Loughborough University report urging government to act on cost of living crisis

Gordon Brown joins signatories

Source: University of Loughborough/ Independent Catholic News

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has joined with 56 faith groups, charities and politicians to call on the government to take urgent action to bridge the cost of living gap faced by the lowest income families.

The call responds to a report written by poverty expert and Loughborough University Professor Donald Hirsch which reveals the gap between the support the government is currently offering to households and the anticipated rise in living costs.

The report concludes that the current flat-rate payments offered by the government will fall at least £1,600 short of making up for recent changes to living costs and benefits faced by a couple with two children.

The report assesses the extent to which cost of living measures announced in May will compensate for three blows experienced by millions of low-income families: cuts in Universal Credit, inadequate uprating of benefits with accelerating inflation in April and the further rise in the energy cap anticipated in October.

It shows that the package of support measures falls well short of making up for these losses, even with the October increase in the cap.

The groups, supported by Gordon Brown, are urging the Government to consider appropriate measures to bridge the shortfall in family finances, which is only anticipated to rise into the winter months.

Some charities are calling for benefits to be uprated in line with inflation, and for debt deductions from Universal Credit to be paused.

The report is endorsed by 56 charities, faith groups and politicians, many of whom are providing front-line support for families hit by rising costs, including Archbishop Leo William Cushley, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, representatives of Caritas, Paul Southgate, Chair, National J&P Network and Fr Dominic Robinson SJ, Chair, Westminster J&P Commission.

It has also been endorsed by the Trussell Trust, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Child Poverty Action Group as well as the Methodist Church, the Bishop of Durham, the Hindu Council UK and the Muslim Council of Britain, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, Metro Mayors, Tracy Brabin of West Yorkshire, Andy Burnham of Greater Manchester, Jamie Driscoll of North Tyne Combined Authority, Sadiq Khan of Greater London, Dan Norris of West of England, Steve Rotheram of Liverpool City Region and Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees.

The report contains stories of first-hand experience of the impact of the rise in the cost of living. Lowri receives Universal Credit and cares for her father and daughter.

Her food and fuel bills have doubled, and she’s had to sell her daughter’s bike to make ends meet: “I have spent the last 5 years living in survival mode, just about surviving each day, worrying about money constantly.

“I am emotionally and mentally exhausted living like this. It is not living, merely existing. There is just no way people can manage to pay all their bills, and all we are doing is existing to pay bills. Terrified is an understatement.”

Prof Hirsch said: “The shortfall families are facing between skyrocketing costs and the support government have offered continues to grow. Families were falling behind with the anticipated rise in costs even when the measures were announced, and since then the food and energy costs forecast for this winter have continued to rise sharply.

“The flat rate emergency payments announced so far leave families with children particularly far behind, because they are not sensitive to the extra costs that children bring.

“A new package needs to address the fact that by the autumn, living costs could have risen by as much as 14% for low-income families, who have received only a 3% increase in benefits.

“An additional across-the-board uprating to Universal Credit and other benefits would address family need far more effectively than further flat rate payments.”

The former Prime Minister Gordon Brown commissioned the report, after facing the realities of rising costs alongside churches and charities in the UK

He said: “This is a crisis that Britain hasn’t seen in decades. The most urgent and immediate challenge for the incoming Prime Minister is to ensure that families with children and disabled people aren’t neglected to struggle through the challenges ahead.

“We need targeted support for families on the lowest incomes, not just cuts in taxes or flat rate payments which don’t account for the specific needs of people on the brink of poverty.

“There should be no argument that a permanent increase in Universal Credit is the only way to take a sure step towards a solution.

“This crisis goes far beyond politics; this is a moral issue – our responsibilities to our neighbours and in particular to those who have the least and whose needs are the greatest.

“The incoming Prime Minister has a moral responsibility to ensure that everyone has enough to live on, through this crisis and beyond. We cannot be at ease when millions are ill at ease and cannot rest content as long as there is so much discontent.

“Our society will be stronger when we help the weak and will be richer when we help the poor.”

Revd Graham Thompson, President of the Methodist Church in Britain, who have endorsed the report, said: “Churches and other faith groups are on the front line of offering support to families who are already being swept under by rising costs. We know that millions of families aren’t simply making hard choices between heating and eating, but are having to go without both completely.

“If people aren’t given enough support to live, we don’t dare to imagine what will happen this winter. The government now have a duty to step up and take firm and long-lasting action to ensure not only that this crisis doesn’t deepen, but that it doesn’t happen again.”

Read the report: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1CfrHnpSaT0Niyavldix0sRirbcd76leC/view?usp=sharing

The full list of signatories to the report is:

Rabbi Charley Baginsky, CEO, Liberal Judaism

Revd Fiona Bennett, Moderator of the General Assembly, United Reformed Church

Lord John Bird, Founder, The Big Issue

Anthony Boateng, Vice-President, The Methodist Church in Britain

Paul Bodenham, Programme Leader for Social Action, Caritas Diocese of Nottingham

Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire

Nicola Brady, General Secretary, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester

Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, Chair of ChurchWorks Commission on Covid Recovery

Heidi Chow, Executive Director, Debt Justice

John Coleby, CEO, Caritas Westminster

Niall Cooper, Director, Church Action on Poverty

Revd R Creswell, Chair, The Methodist Fund for Human Need

Archbishop Leo William Cushley, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh

Colin Date, Acting Chair, Christian Concern for One World

Claire Donovan, Campaigns Manager, End Furniture Poverty

Rt Hon Mark Drakeford MS, First Minister of Wales

Jamie Driscoll, Mayor of North Tyne Combined Authority

Andy Elvin, Chief Executive, TACT Fostering

Revd Archie Ford, Moderator, United Free Church of Scotland

Alison Garnham, Chief Executive, Child Poverty Action Group

Ben Gilchrist, CEO, Caritas Shrewsbury

Revd Lynn Green, General Secretary, Baptist Union of Great Britain

Revd James Green, Executive Director, Together Liverpool

Ruth Harvey Leader, The Iona Community

Mia Hasenson-Gross, Director, René Cassin

Rev Karen Hendry, Acting Convenor, Faith Impact Forum, Church of Scotland

Joseph Howes, Chair, End Child Poverty Coalition and CEO of Buttle UK

Imran Hussain, Director of Policy and Campaigns, Action for Children

Revd/Parchg Beti-Wyn James, President Union of Welsh Independents/Llywydd Undeb yr Annibynwyr Cymraeg

Archbishop Andrew John, Archbishop of Wales and Bishop of Bangor, Church in Wales

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

Rajnish Kashyap, General Secretary, Hindu Council UK

Peter Kelly, Director, Poverty Alliance

Paul Kissack, Chief Executive, Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Red Dr Ellen Loudon, Chair Together Liverpool

Peter Lynas, UK Director, Evangelical Alliance

Paul McNamee, Editor, The Big Issue

Jon Miles, Senior Development Worker, Transforming Communities Together

Zara Mohammed, Secretary-General, Muslim Council of Britain

Dan Norris, Mayor of the West of England

Elizabeth Palmer, CEO, St Vincent de Paul Society (England & Wales)

Taidgh Pledger, Political Officer, National Education Union

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol

Fr Dominic Robinson SJ, Chair, Justice & Peace Commission, Diocese of Westminster

Revd Paul Rochester, General Secretary, Free Churches Group

Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region

Bishop Mike Royal, General Secretary, Churches Together in England

Rev Ian Rutherford, Chairperson, Greater Manchester Food Security Action Network

Adam Scorer, Chief Executive, National Energy Action

Paul Southgate, Chair, National Justice and Peace Network

Most Revd Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church

Paula Stringer, UK Chief Executive, Christians Against Poverty

Anna Taylor, Executive Director, Food Foundation

Revd Graham Thompson, President, Methodist Church in Britain

Anna Turley, Chair, North East Child Poverty Commission

Matthew Van Duyvenbode, CSO , Trussell Trust

Natalie Williams, Chief Executive, Jubilee+

Jo Wittams, Interim Executive Director, The Equality Trust

Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Hiroshima Day, 6th August 2022, Outside Westminster Cathedral

Westminster Justice & Peace joined Pax Christi, London Catholic Worker and other peace campaigners to remember the devastation caused by the atomic bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6th and 9th August 1945.

We mourned for those who lost their lives, prayed for an end to nuclear weapons and handed out leaflets to visitors to the Cathedral.

On 9th August, the 77th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, we also joined a procession from Westminster Cathedral – following the memorial service for Blessed Franz Jagerstatter – to the Peace Pagoda by the Thames in Battersea Park, led by Buddhist monk the Rev Gyoro Nagase with several monks and a nun from the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Order.

Arriving at the Peace Pagoda, we were welcomed by Mr Shigeo Kobayashi from Japan Against Nuclear (JAN).

Colourful lanterns on the steps of the pagoda represented souls of the 74,000 people who perished in the bombing in 1945.

The monks led prayers and ceremonies with incense and chanting for all victims in Nagasaki and offered prayers for peace in the world.

Fr Alan Gadd, from the South London Interfaith group, offered a Christian prayer. Hannah Kemp-Welch, CND co-chair, gave a brief address in which she voiced fears over the increasing tensions in the world where so many countries have nuclear weapons.

Shigeo Kobayashi spoke about the urgent necessity of implementing promises made in the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and hopes for the tenth Review Conference of Parties to the treaty (#NPTRevCon) which is currently taking place at the UN in New York. He said the danger of a catastrophic accident has never been greater – pointing out that the bomb on Nagasaki was actually an accident – the original intention was to drop it somewhere else but plans were changed because of the weather.

The Peace Pagoda was presented to London in 1984 by the Venerable Nichidatsu Fuji, founder of the Japanese Buddhist movement, Nipponzan Myohoji. Following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he pledged to build pagodas worldwide as shrines to peace. Altogether, there are now 80 peace pagodas worldwide.

“Civilisation is not to kill human beings, not to destroy things, nor make war; civilisation is to hold mutual affection and to respect one another.”

Rev Fuji

All are invited to join us next year to mark the 78th anniversary of the bombings and to continue, in the meantime, to work for an end to these weapons so that all may live without fear of them ever being used again.

Full Report: Independent Catholic News

Bishop John Sherrington: Summer camp helps refugee children find a safe home

Bishop John Sherrington with children from this year’s summer camp

Source: Diocese of Westminster

On 1st August, Bishop John Sherrington visited the Syria Summer Camp, an educational, fun and therapeutic event for children from refugee backgrounds hosted by Newman Catholic College and supported by Caritas Westminster. Now in its sixth year, it was initiated in 2016 by Amanda Wooster as a summer activity for refugees who came from places such as Syria and Afghanistan. Bishop John shares his experience of the visit.

I was warmly welcomed by Inayat and Anisa. Inayat, a young man and student at Newman Catholic College, whose name means ‘bounty, kindness, favour’, enthusiastically introduced me to other groups of young people at the Syrian Summer Camp. Anisa, an older woman, known as Auntie, whose name means ‘pleasant companion’ was a quiet and comforting presence with us throughout the day. Sister Silvana from Caritas Westminster, a passionate and dedicated promoter of the summer camp, had organised the visit and accompanied us. 

We first met the young lionesses, younger children, being coached by a QPR woman trainer. Many had watched the Women’s Euro football final on Sunday evening and wanted to follow in the women’s footsteps. They were enthusiastic about football, if a little shy in our presence. The next group were waiting patiently to travel by train to London Zoo. The boys were keen to see the lions which were their favourite animal but were worried that the lions might be asleep and hidden in their lair. 

Inayat introduced us to a group of boys who were discussing the meaning of culture. With origins in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and other countries, they talked about whether they had grown up in a city or a rural area, the meaning of flags, sport and the culture they had left behind. They said that London was a safe place for them and that was more important than many other things. Learning English to communicate was at the heart of this activity. Football crossed all boundaries. Sr Silvana spoke about women footballers being paid less than men and asked whether this was right? Most accepted the difference!

A further group of teenage boys and girls were exploring the meaning of their names. Each told me their meaning which was beautiful and very moving. I learnt that Fatima, daughter of the Prophet, was translated as ‘flower’.  They were painting a symbol of their names to express the meaning. Many included light and sun, though some were much darker. I was asked about the meaning of the white collar in my shirt. I explained that it is a sign of being a bishop or priest.

‘What does a ring mean,’ I asked? They spoke of marriage and love. I said a bishop’s ring is a sign of the love of Christ and his Church. Sr Silvana explained the meaning of her ring of consecration as a woman religious. We then discussed some common elements of Christianity and Islam, pilgrimage, prayer times, almsgiving and charity, but didn’t get into detail about our views of the person of Jesus Christ. We also learnt that Ramadan is a much harder fast than Lent! 

The final visit was to group of very young children exploring sound and movement with a patient teacher. They created a dance with rhythm and movement which they all thoroughly enjoyed although it was hard to work together. Fun was had by all.

Hospitality is central to Arabic culture and so we enjoyed the blessings of lunch together. Inayat presented me with his Afghani wristband and spoke of his hopes for A-Levels and the future. Anisa remained the motherly presence throughout the day.

Driving home from Harlesden made me think about the journeys they had made to be in a safe place in London. The helicopters whirring above Wembley on the day of the Women’s Euro final had clearly created anxiety for some of the young people and no doubt brought back terrible memories. Behind each face, a story and a family which is unknown to most of us. Yet each face revealed joy and friendship and appreciation of the work of the volunteers to help them over this period of the summer school.

Thank you to Newman Catholic College, Caritas, and all the volunteers trying to help these children and young people to find a safe home and some blessings.

Bishop John Arnold: It’s time to sprint towards climate action

Source: Independent Catholic News

The episcopal lead for the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales on the Environment, Bishop John Arnold of Salford, has called for more urgent action on the climate crisis. In a statement on his diocesan website on 23 July, after a record-breaking heatwave in the UK, he said:

“This is not going to just peak and then we’ll hear no more of it. It’s going to get gradually worse. We are warming the globe and we’re not reacting quickly enough to avoid the damage or to even begin to repair the damage that we’ve done. We’ve already been told that some of the damage is irreparable, so we’ve got to think and we’ve got to act. Unfortunately, the government is not fulfilling the promises made at COP26…. The politics of our nation must take full measure of climate change and the climate crisis.

“I know that we’re jogging along, showing an interest in climate change – but jogging is not enough. We’ve got to start sprinting at this stage to make sure that we are caring for our common home and our brothers and sisters.”

He described the recent heatwave as a “wake-up call,” saying, “this week, we’ve witnessed temperatures never before reached here in the UK and, here in our own diocese, temperatures also saw record highs as some parishes nudged 40 degrees and firefighters battled flames in nearby communities.”

Bishop John thanked parishes and schools already working to live more sustainably and campaign for environmental justice. Bishop Arnold invited involvement in the second diocesan Walk for Creation on Sunday 2nd October.

Mass for the Season of Creation at Farm Street Church, Saturday, 3 September 2022, 4pm

Southern Dioceses Environment Network

Resources for the Season of Creation

Visit to Kew Gardens, Tuesday 9th August at 11am

Tony Sheen (CAFOD Westminster Community Participation Co-ordinator), Niki Psarias (Caritas Westminster Lead for Food) and Colette Joyce (Westminster Justice and Peace Co-ordinator) are coming together to lead this summer outing, enjoying the beauty of nature and visiting the ‘Food Forever Festival‘ sculptures and art works at the world famous botanical gardens at Kew. You are welcome to join us!

Protecting sustainable food sources is a major theme of social justice that is of great concern to CAFOD, Caritas and Justice & Peace.

Meet inside Kew Gardens at the Victoria Gate entrance at 11.00am.

We will begin together with a short introduction to the Festival and an opening prayer and convene again in the same place at 4.00pm for a time of sharing and a closing prayer. You are welcome to walk with us or to explore the gardens at your own pace.

You can choose to bring a picnic to eat together (weather permitting!) or you can go independently to any of Kew’s restaurants or food outlets.

You will need to book your own tickets. We recommend doing this at the earliest opportunity, booking in advance on the Kew website, to ensure your place, although tickets can also be purchased on the day. Tickets vary in price depending on number and type bought. A standard single adult ticket booked online in advance costs £15.

Book Tickets on the Kew Gardens website

Note that there are special rates for children, families, young people, students, visitors with disabilities and senior citizens 65+

There is a special price of £1 for people on Universal Credit, Pension Credit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

For more information, or to let us know you will be joining us, please contact Colette Joyce colettejoyce@rcdow.org.uk   or call her on 07593 434 905

Kew Gardens Food Forever Festival

NJPN Conference Report, 22-24 July 2022

Angel, Chris, Amy, Tra-My and Colette on the Westminster Justice & Peace stall at the NJPN Conference Just Fair 2022

Source: Ellen Teague, Independent Catholic News

About 160 people gathered from across the country for the 44th Annual Conference of the National Justice and Peace Network at the Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick, Derbyshire. There were 12 representatives from the Diocese of Westminster. Particular thanks go to Assumption Volunteers Angel, Chris, Amy and Tra-My who ran the Just Fair stall for Westminster Justice and Peace this year. Over the course of the weekend they collected answers to synod-style questions on the environment and racial justice (two priority areas for Westminster Justice and Peace) which we hope to collate and publish soon.

Keynote speakers throughout the weekend explored the conference theme of ‘Hope’.

Irish diplomat Philip McDonagh explored the meaning of hope, drawing on Pope Benedict’s encyclical Spe Salvi, especially the statement that “all serious and upright conduct is hope in action.” He felt “we should ‘image’ or visualise peace as the rightful possession of the human community as a whole,” despite current global conflicts. He felt that, “through developing a culture of dialogue or encounter in national, regional, and global politics we can transform our understanding of effective action and create the conditions for a different kind of civilisation.” He felt, “the National Peace and Justice Network is living proof that individual interventions in the name of justice and mercy reinforce one another and can support wider social objectives as well.” He pointed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as already providing a medium-term common plan for humanity and called for consultative processes to include representatives of religion to underpin their implementation. “In this moment of fractured politics and dissolving ethics, renewed attention to religion as a source of unity is a bold and much-needed initiative,” he suggested.

Rev Dr Patrick Devine SMA spoke of his peace-building work in East Africa as chairman of the Shalom Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation. Shalom seeks to identify, understand and address the underlying causes of conflict rather than just address the symptoms. Fr Devine spoke of dramatic, life-changing results in the areas of conflict transformation, peace education and poverty alleviation. Shalom researches root causes of inter-ethnic conflicts, trains local peace-builders, organises workshops to facilitate resolution and reconciliation processes between factions, and develops inter-ethnic and inter-religious schools. “Theory without practice is empty and practice without theory is blind,” he said.

‘Getting beyond Optimism to Hope: demonstrating or building the Kingdom in the world of politics,’ was the title of a presentation by Andy Flanagan of Christians in Politics and a singer-songwriter. He spoke of leading parliamentarians in singing about integrity, truth and justice at a parliamentary prayer breakfast in early July and a spate of government ministerial resignations which took place hours later! Christians believe that, “integrity is leadership is really important.” A firm believer in tackling the causes of injustice, he praised NJPN for its campaigning work over the years to promote justice and compassion. His music provided the Saturday evening entertainment.

Liturgies were organised by the Lay Community of St Benedict and both Catholic and ecumenical worship was offered. Conference planning partners included ACTA, Christians Aware, Joint Public Issues Team, and Stella Maris. Rev Ruth Gee, a Methodist pastor and patron of NJPN who led a service on Saturday afternoon, spoke of “being united by concern and passion for justice and peace and by a shared faith.”

Workshops included issues of domestic poverty and universal credit, Salford’s ‘Guardians of Creation’ project, restoring dignity to prisoners and their families, Church Action for Tax Justice and Interfaith work on Justice and Peace.

A preview of the film, ‘Finite: The Climate of Change’, which looks at non-violent direct action in Germany and UK to protect ancient forests from coal mines, attracted an audience of 60. https://www.finite-film.com/

A Just Fair hosted 25 stalls, including Together for the Common Good, Green Christian, Christian Climate Action, Columbans, Missio, World Community for Christian Meditation, Fairtrade, Palestinian Goods and Global Justice Now.

Food at the conference was guided by LOAF principles (Local, Organic, Animal Friendly, Fairly Traded).

Full National Justice and Peace Network Report

Mark Hiroshima and Nagasaki Anniversaries with Pax Christi in Westminster

Pax Christi outside Westminster Cathedral 2021

Next Saturday, 6th August, is the anniversary of dropping the first atomic bomb in 1945 on Hiroshima, Japan, killing around 146,000 people, devastating the city and leaving a legacy of radiation-induced cancers and disability. The second nuclear bombing on the city of Nagasaki, which killed up to 80,000 people, is commemorated three days later on Tuesday 9th August.

Both days now provide annual opportunities to foster peace, pray and work towards a world free of nuclear weapons.

Saturday 6 August – Hiroshima Remembrance – Pax Christi will be present with a stall in front of Westminster Cathedral from 11.00am – 1.00pm. Prayer at 1.00pm. 

Tuesday 9 August – Nagasaki Remembrance – Pax Christi will be present with a stall in front of Westminster Cathedral from 11.00am – 1.00pm. Prayer at 1.00pm. 

All supporters of Justice & Peace and friends of Pax Christi are welcome to come along to show their support and especially to join in the time of prayer at 1.00pm.

Franz Jägerstätter Memorial Service

Pax Christi are also organising a service to commemorate Blessed Franz Jägerstätter in the Crypt at Westminster Cathedral on Tuesday 9 August, 6.30pm. Franz Jägerstätter was executed on 9th August 1943 at Brandenburg Prison for his conscientious objection to serving in Hitler’s army. He was beatified in 2007.

Following the service, people may wish to join the interfaith walk to the London Peace Pagoda for the Nagasaki Day memorial.

Pax Christi Events

ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) – Hiroshima and Nagasaki

More on the life of Franz Jägerstätter

Why, as a Young Catholic, my Meaning of ‘Justice and Peace’ is Love

By AnnaElisa Huynh

AnnaElisa is on an intern placement with Caritas Westminster and has been visiting a number projects around the Diocese. She spent an afternoon (online!) with Westminster Justice & Peace as part of her placement and here she shares some reflections on her learning.

With an ongoing war in Ukraine and a resulting refugee and human rights crisis, I often hear the terms “justice” and “peace,” but I rarely hear them in the context of love. As a young Catholic, I believe love is the link between justice, peace, and the urgent need for both in our present society. The idea of love for all in society was advocated by Jesus Christ in the Bible verse: “The second is this: love your neighbour as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.” – Mark 12:31. Within this commandment, I find the meaning of justice and peace and the calling to promote these ideas in our world today. 

The root of justice is the equality of love: if we must love our neighbour as ourselves, then everyone must be treated with equal dignity, respect, and kindness. Furthermore, each of us, as God’s children, must be given an equal opportunity to fully live our lives and participate in society. Thus, the struggle for justice is the struggle to ensure that we love each of our neighbours equally so that we are able to live the life God intended for us.

Peace, in light of Jesus’s commandment, is more than the absence of violence. Peace comes from knowing you are loved, valued, and cared for by God and others around you. Peace comes from the harmony and solidarity of an entire community helping each member to achieve a state of value and well-being through loving and caring for each other. In this way, the struggle for justice is working for peace for all of us, and striving for us to love each of our neighbours equally.

‘Hope for our world’; a reflection on volunteering with ‘Justice and Peace’

I have been privileged to attend the ‘Southern Environment Diocesan Network’ meetings, which are open to all with participants including members of CAFOD, Diocesan staff and volunteers, Laudato Si’ Animators, clergy, parishioners, religious and activists. We have met together for mutual support and encouragement for our efforts to tackle climate change in our work and home environments.

We were fortunate to receive input on all aspects of the climate, in order for us to inform those around us. Recently we learnt about ‘Biodiversity’ and how Climate Change is causing widespread devastation to all species and habitats on this planet. Clearly, there needs to be a dramatic reduction in our carbon emissions as individuals and organisations in order to protect the future and diversity of all life on earth. The mission of the network is inspired by the principles of Catholic Social Teaching set out by Pope Francis in his encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ which draws upon scripture to highlights our duty as Catholics to care for the earth and each other.

For me the experience highlighted the reality and urgency of the crisis which is often easy for us to forget amongst the business of our lives and the fact that real change is only possible if we take responsibility as individuals. It is only by the accumulation of our efforts that there can be hope for the future of life on this earth. With prayer and support of one another, we can have the strength to ‘take up our cross’ (Matthew 16: 24,26) whatever form this may take so we can protect God’s creation for future generations.

By Amy Smith

Links

Southern Diocese Environment Network

Maggie Beirne reflects on the Synod Synthesis: ‘Blindness’ to issue of racism

Maggie Beirne

Source: Independent Catholic News

The national Synthesis developed by the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW) is a marvel of lucidity, and one which tackled a series of difficult, and potentially controversial, issues in a thoughtful and sensitive manner. It constitutes an incredible contribution to the global debate about how the People of God should journey together to live out our Gospel values.

There is so much in it to be welcomed that it seems petty to focus on a serious weakness, rather than proceed to embed this model of a listening church into our faith lives in our homes, our parishes, our places of work etc. Still, this moment should not be let pass, without some recognition of the blindness that the Synthesis seems to show with regard to the issue of racism.

There is a paragraph devoted in the ‘marginalised groups’ section to “People of Colour” (paragraph 71), which might be considered an improvement on some of the diocesan reports which did not allude to this issue at all. However, the paragraph is, in my view, very wrong headed. The national Synthesis notes that there are few references in the diocesan reports to ‘people of colour’ being excluded (the word racism still does not appear anywhere), but this silence is ‘explained away’ on the grounds that our congregations are often so ethnically diverse. The impression is given either that racism is not a problem within our church, since people of colour themselves did not raise it in the diocesan reports; or, alternatively, racism cannot be a problem experienced in our church because we have such ethnically diverse congregations. Neither interpretation is credible.

The commitment to addressing the need for more diversity in leadership roles is important but insufficient.

Talking with others, they confirmed my view that the final Synthesis seems “totally blind to the issue of racism” and some felt “let down” by its silence on the topic. I accept that the diocesan submissions might not have addressed the issue of racism explicitly but surely our duty as a church is to listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying in the silences too? Were ‘people of colour’ engaged in the process in proportionate numbers (I was a parish synodal rep and noted in our written report that no non-white people engaged in our process)? If they did engage, were they comfortable in raising sensitive issues such as their treatment within broader society, and maybe also the treatment received from fellow parishioners? Maybe it is worse still if people of colour engaged in their parish or synodal processes but did not raise any concerns about exclusion because they did not feel that their experiences of racism had anything much to do with their faith journeys? There is plenty of documentation to show that racism is a problem that needs to be addressed from a faith perspective – just read the ground-breaking Rooting Out Racism report carried out by White City parish in Westminster diocese; or the submission to the national synodal process by the Catholic Association for Racial Justice (CARJ).

The Bishops will present this national Synthesis to the global church and (rightly) alluding to the fact that “the racial and cultural diversity of Catholics is seen as one of the great gifts of the Church in England and Wales”. However, I think that they must also be willing to see that racism is experienced by many in our society, and even in our pews. We, the People of God, need support in celebrating our diversity but also in recognising that many of the people we are journeying with experience racism. Absent this support, many faithful Catholics will remain blind to racism and, even perhaps quite unthinkingly, engage in it.

LINKS

‘Rooting out Racism’ Report –
www.cbcew.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2021/01/Rooting-Out-Racism.pdf

Catholic Association for Racial Justice Synod Submission –https://mcusercontent.com/3d2b3ff9853eab9381ba677d5/files/e100ecc9-e9fb-cbd8-158a-71dda217ad55/CARJ_Synodality_Sessions_Report_Feb_2022.pdf

National Synthesis Document – Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales –
www.cbcew.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2022/06/synod-national-synthesis-england-wales.pdf

Maggie Beirne, coordinator of the West London J&P network, is writing in a personal capacity.